Don’t Forget to Sign the Sign-up Sheet

Some of us who write books will do almost anything to try to attract attention to our work. That includes going to open mic sessions at libraries, coffee shops, car washes, wherever. The organizers usually schedule two or three published writers to read before offering the mic to anyone in the audience.

At times there will be a couple of poems or stories that hit home, but these outings are not always free of pain. For example, four years ago:

One featured reader was a short, energetic lady. After offering several poems, she turned on a music player and started dancing, both on the small stage and down the main aisle of the room. There were people clapping in time to the music and laughing. Larry McCoy was not among the clappers nor the laughers.

Dressed in black slacks and a flaming red blouse, she did pelvic bumps with her arms extended in front of her as though her nails were wet. I had signed the sheet to read but wasn’t aware I was expected to dance too.

Another scheduled reader was an interesting young man who began by saying he was a big fan of Beowulf, who I believe was a distant relative of Wolf Blitzer. The guy had some good, sharp poems, meaning I could understand them. He closed with a song — a chantey, he said — lasting about as long as the final two minutes of an NBA game. In other words, when the chantey began you could have put a roast in the oven and by the time it ended your supper would have been ready.

After a break, the open mic part began. One of the first up was a guy who had been at previous readings with poems I don’t understand because I’m unfamiliar with most of the words in his vocabulary. But he’s forceful and has a good delivery. He closed with a poem he said he had written that day. He started reading, stopped, read to himself and then said, “Ah, yes” and resumed reading to the audience. While he had his “ah, yes” moment, I haven’t a clue what the poem was about.

Next to step forward was an older woman who sang “The Way We Were,” stopping occasionally to clear her throat. The song was followed by a recitation of several of her medical problems and a story or two about her mother.

I was waiting my turn, worried that I was unprepared with no dance routine or song ready to go. Hell, I didn’t even have a list of my medications to share with the crowd or perhaps a touching story about the time I set my mom’s hair on fire.

A middle-aged fellow who writes funny poetry read some and then sang “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” with lyrics he had written about Donald Trump.

Another open mic participant was a young man who read everything off his cellphone. He was sort of the Dennis Miller of poetry, using lots of obtuse and underused words. (Underused words are probably underused for a reason, no?) He writes short pieces and numbers them. “Pick a number between one and 109,” he asked his audience and scrolled on his cellphone to whatever number was called out.

As far as I’m concerned his most impressive feat came before he started talking. While still in the audience, he took his right arm and extended it way down his back. As someone who had two torn rotator cuffs, I found this both wonderful and painful to watch.

When my name was called, I read something from my book about grandkids — a chapter about a grandfather who can’t behave in restaurants and embarrasses his grandkids by insisting they play games, such as sticking the paper covers of straws under their noses to make a mustache. To be honest, I was disappointed that no one there seemed authorized to immediately buy the movie rights to this epic.

Although the library allotted two hours for this event, it lasted two hours and 40 minutes. It seemed like two days and 40 nights.

There was another open mic session a month later, and, by golly, guess who showed up and quickly signed the sheet to read?

-0-

Book review of “Grandma Told Me to Never Believe Anything Grandpa Says”:

“McCoy offers a collection of funny stories about spending time with his four grandchildren….His sense of humor is self-effacing and sweet.”…(Although the reviewer wasn’t in love with the chapters written from the viewpoint of a teenage grandkid)… “Still, the stories in this collection will charm the author’s family and other grandparents who treasure time spent with their grandkids.” — _Kirkus Reviews

“Sweet?” I don’t think anyone has ever said that about me before.

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Larry McCoy

Larry McCoy

Retired journalist, posts essays at larrymccoyonline.com, a new book, “Grandma Told Me To Never Believe Anything Grandpa Says,” is now available at book sellers